ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Sun TV and the Maran Brothers

The Business of Politics

A heady cocktail of politics, business emerges from the developments relating to one of India's biggest media conglomerates, the Chennai-based Sun group. The actions of different wings of the union government against Sun's owners, the politically influential Maran brothers, have raised a number of questions relating to allegations of breaking rules, taking advantage of proximity to power, economic offences and freedom of expression. These issues have, in turn, become embroiled in factional politics within the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in New Delhi and in the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in Chennai, which is currently out of power both in the centre and in Tamil Nadu.

On 12 August 2015 the Supreme Court restrained the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) from arresting former Union Minister for Communications Dayanidhi Maran till 14 September. He had earlier been summoned by the CBI for questioning after being accused of installing a “telephone exchange” with 323 lines at his residence at a cost of Rs 400 crore for the benefit of the Sun Television group led by his elder brother Kalanithi Maran. The three-judge bench of the apex court suspected “political vendetta” behind the CBI’s intentions, which the Attorney General (AG) of India Mukul Rohatgi denied.

Two days earlier, the Madras High Court had cancelled the anticipatory bail granted to Dayanidhi and directed him to surrender before the CBI. The Supreme Court bench observed that while the first information report (FIR) in this particular criminal case had been registered two years ago, the accused person had not been arrested. The judges pointed out that the assessment of the loss to the government-owned telecommunications company Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) was estimated at Rs 1.20 crore by the CBI, which Dayanidhi said he was willing to pay; though petitioner Swaminathan Gurumurthy had alleged that the total loss to the exchequer on account of the illegal installation and use of these lines by Sun is Rs 400 crore. The judges remarked (Mahapatra 2015):

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